So you’re finally visiting Thailand, huh? Thailand is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, and for plenty of good reasons. It has amazing beaches, a huge, exciting city, gorgeous mountains, some of the world’s finest food and a fun way of life that makes spending time here an amazing experience.
It also has a reputation as a bit of a backpacker destination — the type of wild, off-the-beaten-track country where you need a gigantic backpack, camping roll, cooking set and other life-in-the-wilderness type accessories to survive.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but for the most part Thailand is a pretty well developed country with the infrastructure and services for an easy stay, even if you don’t bring your jumbo sized backpack. So leave the huge hiking bag at home and instead bring the five essentials listed below when you visit Thailand:
A small backpack or suitcase
There is absolutely no need to bring a gigantic backpack with you to Thailand. Using a huge backpack not only makes you weighed down with stuff you’ll never use — it also makes you an obvious mark for touts and scammers.
It’s far better to blend in with a small backpack (under 25 liters) or a suitcase. If you plan to spend most of your time in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai or Koh Samui, the backpack is a waste of time. If you’re visiting any of the smaller islands, stick with a compact bag you can comfortably carry around without destroying your spine.
Thailand is hot and sunny, so pack a pair of sunglasses. Why are sunglasses such an important thing to bring? Because high quality, brand name sunglasses cost a fortune in Thailand due to import taxes, while the cheap sunglasses that you can buy on the beach here break in five seconds.
Before you leave, pick up a pair of decent Polaroid or Ray-Ban sunglasses for your trip, especially if you’re visiting Southern Thailand. Your eyes will thank you instead of hating you after spending the entire day squinting against the tropical sky.
Some semi-formal clothes
Sounds silly, right? After all, who dresses up to go to Thailand? While we’re not talking about a three-piece suit, it’s worth bringing at least one nice shirt and pair of pants or a nice dress to Thailand. The reason for this is that many of Thailand’s nicer bars and restaurants have a fairly strict dress code, at least compared to the West.
Show up in fisherman’s pants and sandals to most nice hotel bars on Phuket or in Bangkok and you’ll be politely turned away. Bringing some nice-ish clothes doesn’t mean you need to wear them, but it expands your options and gives you access to a much better range of nightlife and dining venues.
Also, casual summer clothes
Thailand is hot. Like, really hot. If you dress for a Northern European winter, you will cook. Bring some light t-shirts that breathe easily, especially if you plan on spending any time on the islands. If you prefer a long sleeved shirt, avoid cotton in favor of lighter, more breathable linen instead.
Likewise, a few pairs of shorts will help you a lot throughout your time in Thailand. It’s best to pack two to three versions of everything, as you’ll need a second (or third) pair of shorts when your first two are drying after a long hike and an unexpected swim at one of the world’s most amazing beaches.
Seriously, bring your smartphone. Thailand has excellent mobile coverage and it’s easy to get a signal pretty much anywhere in the country, even on some of the most remote islands. If your phone is unlocked and accepts a sim card from anywhere, it will be a godsend while you’re in Thailand.
All of the major Thai phone networks — DTAC, AIS and True — offer tourist plans that are prepaid and provide access to the country’s mobile network. Having your phone will make it much easier to look up reviews and recommendations, saving you from having to cling to your Lonely Planet guidebook the whole time you’re here.